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Bipolar disorder

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Depression is one of the many side effects of Bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder is mental illness that is characterized by severe mood swings and manic behavior. Many of the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder are often mistaken for other conditions or go unrecognized. Like many other disorders, Bipolar is a life-long affliction that must be carefully managed and watched throughout the person's life. [1]


There are five different types of Bipolar disorder: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cycolythmic, Mixed, and Rapid-cycling. About six million people, 2.5% of the population, suffer from Bipolar I. Nearly all cases of Bipolar I are in people under age fifty, usually in the teens to early twenties.[2]

Bipolar I

Bipolar I, also known as Bipolar Mania (or manic-depressive disorder), is defined as "a state of mind and mood most commonly characterized by excessive energy, along with other symptoms such as extravagant behavior, rapid speech, reckless spending, and hallucinations." Cycles of depression and mania are normally accompanied with Bipolar I. A manic episode is an abnormally elevated mood for an amount of time along with behavior that disrupts normal life. In order for a bipolar episode to be considered manic, it has to follow certain criteria: mania must last for at least one week or require hospitalization, there must be a "sustained and abnormally elevated, expansive or irritable mood" throughout the episode, and the episode causes problems in social life and work. There are many psychotic symptoms of Mania as well. They include hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. [3]

The symptoms of Bipolar I are rapid change in thought patterns, "pressured," and loud speech, increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep, inflated opinions about one's self, excessive money spending, hyper-sexuality and substance abuse. People with Bipolar I become capable of any behavior; they spend copious amounts of money, have sexual relations with multiple people and often lose touch with reality.[4]

Hallucinations are defined as "perception of a nonexistent object or event" and "sensory experiences that are not caused by stimulation of the relevant sensory organs." That means they include hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling things that do not exist.[5] Delusions are defined as false beliefs that are firmly held. Delusions can include delusions of grandeur, unprovoked jealousy, and persecutory delusions.[6] Paranoia is defined as unreasonable and/or exaggerated mistrust and suspicion of others without any factual basis. [7]

Additional symptoms of Bipolar Mania include a less need for sleep, fast talking, inappropriate behavior, grandiose behavior, reckless spending of money, hypersexuality, racing thoughts, unusual aggravation, dressing and behaving flamboyantly and being easily distracted. Some of the warning signs of mania are increased energy, speech disruptions, impaired judgment, changes in thought patterns, mood swings and psychosis.[8] Another category of Bipolar Disorder symptoms are Psychosis symptoms. Psychosis is considered a loss of contact with reality. A first account of bipolar depression may describe the state as: I doubt completely my ability to do anything well. It seems as though my mind has slowed down and burned out to the point of being virtually useless. I am haunted with the desperate hopelessness of it all. Others say, "It's only temporary, it will pass, you will get over it," but of course they haven't any idea of how I feel, although they are certain they do. If I can't feel, move, think, or care, then what on earth is the point?[9]

Some other symptoms of Bipolar depression are a depressed mood, low energy or apathy, sadness, loneliness, helplessness or feelings of guilt, slowed speech, excess fatigue, poor coordination, insomnia, suicidal tendencies such as thoughts and feelings, lack of concentration and a lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities.[10]

Bipolar II

Bipolar two is a less intense form. The episodes never reach full on manic, the episodes are called hypomanic episodes. Depression is the most common side effect of Bipolar II.

The symptoms of Hypomania are euphoria (the feeling of being high"), irritability, indecisiveness, fast speech, and an over excess of energy. People with Bipolar II are often happy, outgoing, infectious people. They have a "life of the party" mentality. Unfortunately, this often shifts into episodes of dangerous, erratic behavior involving drugs, sex and money. Sever depression also follows. These episodes can last for days, months and even years. The same medications used to treat Bipolar II are used to treat Bipolar I. Using antidepressants to treat either of these disorders is not recommended as they can set off manic episodes. Medications to avoid are Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil.[11]


There are not many known causes of Bipolar disorder. Many people believe that it is mainly a hereditary disorder, inherited from other familial generations. Other genetic, neurochemical and environmental factors can have an effect as well. In families, a person who has a parent with Bipolar Disorder has a fifteen to twenty-five percent chance of inheriting the condition. Interestingly, in twins there is an increased risk of having the disorder. Identical twins have about an eight times higher chance of contracting the disorder than non-identical twins. Non-identical twins have about a twenty-five percent chance of having Bipolar Disorder, that's the same as a person with two parents with the disorder. Most scientists believe that Bipolar disorder is mainly due to genetic causes because of an abnormality in a specific area of the brain. In this area the brain's neurotransmitters (a chemical messenger in the brain) do not work right. If it is a biological disorder, then it is possible that the disorder is dormant until activated by emotional or environmental stresses. There are also many neurochemical factors. The malfunction of the brain involves neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin. There are most likely many others as well. Environmental factors also play an active role in the development of Bipolar disorder. A traumatic event could trigger an "episode" in someone with Bipolar disorder or a similar mood disorder. Changes in habits, the use of drugs or alcohol and hormonal disorders have also been known to trigger Bipolar episodes. [12]


Although there is no cure for any of the Bipolar disorders, there are a few different medications that can treat Bipolar I like Lythium. Although it can take up to two or three weeks to activate, it effectively suppress Bipolar symptoms. Depakote is an antiseizure medication that works to make moods more constant. Some other effective medications are Tegretol, Lamictal, Gabitril, Trileptol, Neurontin, and Topamax. Antipsychotics like Zyprexa, Seroquil, Risperadon, and Abilify and Benzodiazepines like Xanax, Ativan and Valium (all are also called tranquilizers) all help cure the short term symptoms of Bipolar I.[13]

Related Disorders

Some other disorders associated with Bipolar disorder are Schizophrenia, Depression, and borderline personality disorder.

Schizophrenia: a mental disorder that causes the individual to hear voices others can't, think that people "broadcast" their thoughts to the outside world or become convinced society is plotting against them. About one percent of Americans suffer from Schizophrenia. People suffering from this disorder are extremely withdrawn; they can be silent for hours. The symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, voices, a "flat effect" (when a person's face doesn't move and their voice stays monotone), loss of pleasure in everyday life, lack of ability to begin or maintain planned activities, and little social contact. They also have trouble processing and retaining information, no attention span, and no long term memory. Schizophrenia is most common in people ages sixteen to thirty, symptoms are more prominent in men than in women. Scientists have predicted that about eighty percent of adolescents are at risk for developing Schizophrenia. [14]

Depression: a mood disorder that causes the individual to suffer from symptoms like difficulty retaining information, a decrease in energy, guilt, shame, worthlessness, hopelessness, insomnia, unhealthy sleep patterns, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, major change in eating habits, aches and pains, cramps, headaches, incurable digestion problems, anxiousness, suicidal thoughts and attempts at suicide. People with clinical depression often feel as if life is no longer worth living, that nothing they do will ever amount to anything. Nothing anybody, whether friend or family, tells them will change their mind that everything will be okay. Depression can affect anyone of any age group. [15]

Borderline Personality Disorder: "BPD" is described as "a prolonged disturbance of personality function in a person." This disorder usually occurs in people over the age of eighteen. "Black and white thinking", chaotic and unstable relationships, personal image, self-identity, and behavior and in some cases, periods of dissociation are associated with this disorder. Many think that BPD is caused after sever traumatic events in a person's life. It is related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, PSD[16]


Other mental illnesses